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62 of 124 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A book that must be exposed for what it is, 24 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics (Paperback)
In the very beginning of this book, Gilad Atzmon tells us about his grandfather, a former prominent commander in the Irgun who had, Atzmon admits, "a tremendous influence over me in my early days". Atzmon's grandfather hated "anything not Jewish", but "more than anything, though, my grandfather hated Jewish a follower of right wing revisionist Zionist Zeev Jabotinsky, my Grandfather obviously realised that Leftist philosophy together with any form of Jewish value system is a contradiction in terms. Being a veteran right-wing terrorist as well as a proud Jewish hawk, he knew very well that tribalism can never live in peace with humanism and universalism."

In these opening words may lie a clue to the mystery of Gilad Atzmon. He claims to have entirely rejected his grandfather's chauvinism and to have become a humanist and universalist - but it is clear that his grandfather retains his "tremendous influence" over him. Like his grandfather, Atzmon hates Jewish leftists more than anything else and insists that it is impossible both to have a strong sense of Jewish identity (which he calls "tribalism") and to be a humanist and universalist. Thus he devotes almost a whole chapter (Chapter 8) to attacking the founders of the Jewish Socialist Group, David Rosenberg and Julia Bard, writing about their claim on their website to be both Socialists and part of the Jewish community: "reading these lines rings a bell. It was actually my grandfather, the right-wing, racist Irgun commander terrorist, who insisted that 'Jewish Socialism' is not only inconsistent, it is deceitful to the bone".

Atzmon's Israeli and Zionist upbringing is very apparent in his arrogant contempt for the Jews of the "galut" (exile). Many (though not all) early Zionists had a very disparaging view of Diaspora Jews, as abnormal and weak, and believed that Zionism would create a new type of Jew who would be "normal" and just like everyone else. For all his claim to be anti-Zionist, Atzmon argues several times in this book that Zionism in its beginning was a promising movement that could have eradicated the evil of "Jewishness" but unfortunately it was taken over by "Jewishness" and this is why it has failed and Israel has become so oppressive of the Palestinians.

Atzmon's own solution to the problem of "Jewishness" seems to be that most Jews should assimilate into the Gentile world, leaving only anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews to remain as Jews. He claims that becoming a jazz musician has enabled him "to become an ordinary human being".

Atzmon insists that in attacking the evil of "Jewishness" he is not being antisemitic, because he is not referring to Jews as a race, people or ethnic group and is also not referring to Judaism as a religion. He seems to have nothing against anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews. He does, however, trace "Jewishness" back to the verses in Deuteronomy about the genocide of the Canaanites, and he does not seem to think that Judaism has much to do with universalism and humanism. But he would probably argue that he only attacks Judaism in so far as it is infected with "Jewishness".

What, then, does he mean by "Jewishness"? It is, apparently, a secular ideology (though capable of merging itself with Judaism): "Jewishness is an ethnocentric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination towards segregation". And in another definition Atzmon describes Zionism (in the sense of Zionism as taken over by "Jewishness"): "it is not a local movement, supported by some enthusiastic lobbies around the world, but a global matrix that possesses the capacity to shape and reshape the notion of the Jewish ghetto, to form and reform the dialectic of Chosen-ness, to balance the emerging tension between insularity and openness, yet to include most Jews. Zionism is a global network with no head, it is a spirit - spirit, unfortunately, cannot be defeated. Yet it must be exposed for what it is." As this network "includes most Jews", it is difficult to see how this concept differs from the classic antisemitic idea of the Jewish world-conspiracy.

Atzmon's particular hatred is not, however, reserved for Zionists but, as stated earlier, for Jewish left-wingers - Jewish anti-Zionists or Jewish opponents to Israeli government policies. He argues that these people are really acting as part of the global network of Jewishness and Zionism but are particularly bad because they claim tn be dissidents and to be both Jewish and humanist/universalist. (I should declare an interest here, as I am a member of the Executive Committee of Jews for Justice for Palestinians).

Atzmon denies that he is talking about a conspiracy, because, he says "everything is in the open" (even though he does seem to imply that most members of the network or "organismus" are acting unconsciously). He argues that Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman have been acting "in the open" as part of this "spirit" or "organismus" in bringing about the world financial crisis. I would have thought the very title of Chapter Two - "Credit Crunch or Zio-punch?" would be enough to alert readers about what kind of book this is.

Which brings me on to a further - this time completely unexplained - mystery: why this book has been endorsed by John Mearsheimer. In their book "The Israel Lobby", John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt insist that the term should be "Israel Lobby", not "Jewish Lobby", because a) only a small minority of the American Jewish community, even though a rich and influential minority, is involved in the Lobby and most American Jews do not agree with its policies; b) the Lobby also comprises many Christian Zionists. Yet Atzmon has no qualms about equating Israeli government policies with the world Jewish communities and saying that the evil global network "includes most Jews".

Atzmon evidently thinks he is being very original and daring in writing "65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz we should be able to ask - why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand against their neighbours?" In fact, the question of the causes of European antisemitism and of the Holocaust has been asked and discussed many times. Atzmon's implication, of course, is that Jews were hated in Europe because of the evil of "Jewishness" - thus he associates Israel's oppressiveness with "the events that led to the Holocaust", asking "Is there anything that we know nowadays about Jewish culture that may help us to understand the Jewish past and Jewish suffering? Can Israeli behaviour help us throw light on the events that led to the Holocaust, or other instances of persecution of Jews?" But he does not explain why it was that in India and China Jews were not hated at all and in the Muslim world Jews experienced very little hatred compared to that shown towards them in Christian Europe. A major and convincing explanation for the hatred shown towards Jews in Christian Europe is the role that Jews were given in the Christian myth, as an accursed people that had killed the divine Son of God.

Without coming out openly as a Holocaust denier, Atzmon flirts with Holocaust denial, claiming that the Holocaust "is not a historical narrative, freely debated by historians, intellectuals and ordinary people" and calling for it to be "analysed properly". The best answer to this was given by David Gehrig in an article - posted on the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center website on January 24th, 2008 - about Atzmon's circulation of "Holocaust Wars", by Paul Eisen, a 30-page defence of the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel (and Paul Eisen is one of the people whom Atzmon thanks in the Acknowledgements). Gehrig writes in this piece: "But let's be clear: if you start saying things like 'why is investigating the Holocaust taboo' you have bought into the Holocaust denier frame, which is wrong for two reasons. One is that investigating the Holocaust is not taboo; the second is what Holocaust deniers are doing isn't 'investigating' but lying." For the whole excellent piece by Gehrig see:


for which the shorter link is

I have given this book one star because it is quite well-written - which only makes its racism even worse.

I don't think this book should be banned - I am on the whole against any book being banned. In any case much of "The Wandering Who?" consists of rehashed articles by Atzmon that are available on the Internet; and to have them together is actually helpful to those trying to make some sense of Atzmon's thinking - no easy task, as he tends to work by insinuation and implication. But it is very disturbing that John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories - who are definitely not antisemites themselves - have been taken in by this pernicious and antisemitic book. This shows how dangerous Atzmon is to the Palestinian cause and how good he is at pulling the wool over people's eyes. So I think the book must be exposed for what it is.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 41 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Oct 2011 11:56:55 BDT
The links to the Gehrig article are:
For the whole excellent piece by Gehrig see:

for which the shorter link is

Posted on 26 Oct 2011 14:53:47 BDT
Paul Eisen says:
It's no surprise that Deborah Maccoby doesn't much like Gilad Atzmon's book. After all, she is one of the 3rd category activists that the book examines so comprehensively. Nor is this the first time that Gilad Atzmon has commented on her activities:

Deborah Maccoby also writes about my own 2005 essay "The Holocaust Wars" but from her comments and references it seems she hasn't properly read it and certainly hasn't understood it. For those who would like to read it, it may be found here:

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Oct 2011 15:37:20 BDT
I do indeed think it's a good idea for people to read the "Holocaust Wars" piece and reflect on Gilad Atzmon's support for it (he circulated it, said he was "happy" to circulate it and called it "a great text"). The first link above, to one of Atzmon's articles, also brings out Atzmon's support for Israel Shamir, who invented the concept of "Jewishness" or "the Jewish spirit"' and has become completely discredited as a fascist and antisemite.

My attention has just been drawn to this piece by Atzmon attacking Moshe Machover - it entirely bears out my acccount of Atzmon's book and presents Atzmon's views in a succinct form:

Posted on 28 Oct 2011 17:12:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Oct 2011 18:24:00 BDT
Paul Eisen says:
But the most shameful part of this review is in the last paragraph. Deborah Maccoby doesn't 'think this book should be banned' - she just works her socks off creating the conditions for someone to ban the book for her. And she does it yet again in her last post where she does 'indeed think it's a good idea for people to read the "Holocaust Wars" '

To get the full flavour of this hypocrisy, readers might consider this quotation from the writings of Martin Buber

"those miserable Arab refugees......whose homes we have inherited, whose fields we now sow and harvest; the fruits of whose gardens, orchards and vineyards we gather; and in whose cities that we robbed we put up houses of education, charity, and prayer, while we babble and rave about being the "People of the Book" and the "light of the nations"'...

Posted on 28 Oct 2011 19:00:14 BDT
Paul Eisen says:
But more important is what makes Deborah Maccoby think she has the right to even think which books should or should not be banned?

For the answer, read "The Wandering Who".

Posted on 2 Nov 2011 21:57:47 GMT
While I do notice in Gilad Atzmon's book a lack of discussion of non-Western Jews, I wonder if Deborah Maccoby has studied the Christian communities in India and China & found anti-semitism there, to support her view of the Christian basis of it. My own Christian upbringing did not leave me with the idea of Jews as christ-killers. Rather it was with "the Chosen people" which was the hostile epithet I heard used by anti-semites. When I pointed out once that the line "David's people once taught the world in righteousness," which Deborah wrote in one of her brilliant adaptations of Christmas carols, was more likely to arouse antisemitism than "Now they ravage and oppress", she dismissed it as my eccentricity. "Chosenness" is of course one of the aspects of "Jewishness" atzmon identifies.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2011 14:13:55 GMT
I understand that there has never been any antisemitism among the Hindu majority in India - the only antisemitism in India has come from Christians. See this Wikipedia article and scroll down to the section on India:

I will have to look into antisemitism in China - but it does seem to be the case that there has been virulent antisemitism in Christian Europe, a small amount of discrimination against Jews in the Muslim world and no antisemitism amongst religions that are not daughter religions of Judaism. As a daughter religion of Judaism, Islam has had a certain amount of rivalry with it - hence some very limited hostility to Jews - but unlike Christianity, Islam never cast Jews in the role of deicides.

How does Atzmon explain the fact that it was only in Europe, where Christianity has been the majority religion, that Jews were hated so violently?

In the carol parody that Gill mentions, I was really referring to the contribution to the concept of universal morality made by the Hebrew Prophets and contrasting it with the behaviour of the State that calls itself the Jewish State.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Nov 2011 23:08:45 GMT
One could make an interesting comparison between antisemitism among Chinese Christians, Indian Christians and European Christians. One would have to take into account the differences between the Jewish communities in these areas, also the differences between the Christian communities and the differences between their surrounding societies; and other factors as well, such as the role of Jews in those societies. Goodness, a doctoral thesis at least. Alternatively, one can rely on one's own experiences and prejudices. Deborah seems to have met a number of Christians who regard Jews as Christkillers; I have only met them in medieval literature. On the other hand,a common expression of hostility to Jews I have met is to refer to them as "the Chosen people" - also found in Christianity of course. What one means by something and what others understand by it do not always agree, so Deborah's intention in the carol might not prevent the hostile interpretation. "The State that calls itself the Jewish State" - Atzmon deals with this in the book. Surely Israel has the right to call itself so: it has the support of the majority of Jews, I think. But we must not forget: if a Jew is a Zionist, it is antisemitic to refer to his Jewishness; if a Jew is an anti-zionist, it is mandatory to acknowledge his Jewishness.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Nov 2011 23:59:26 GMT
I think the turn that this discussion has taken illustrates just what happens when Atzmon achieves 'success', because what Atzmon has always been about in his sayings and writings on this issue is to change the focus from support for Palestinians to Jewish identity and Jews. If we pay too much attention he has us -- instead of discussing the oppression and displacement by Israel of Palestinians -- discussing issues to do with antisemitism. Atzmon is not a problem for Jews, he's a problem for Palestinian solidarity.

Posted on 5 Nov 2011 08:12:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Nov 2011 09:30:28 GMT
Paul Eisen says:
G.B. Robinson:
No, it's not Gilad who shifts the focus onto Jewish identity, it is Jews like you and Deborah Maccoby who do this. Gilad simply tries to correct this.

Jews who come to Palestinian solidarity 'as Jews' and in 'Jews-only' cells always exact a price for their participation - Jewish concerns must be accommodated. Worse, they relentlessly police the movement to ensure that they are.

Brian, to learn more about how and why you do this and to see yourself as you really are. just read the book.
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